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Old Tymer

Junior
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Hello Everyone,
Now I know that today wine is made by adding yeast and extreme sanitation to say in the simplest form, but when I talk to all of the old time Italians, and from what I remember when I was a kid, the wine they made contained no added yeast but instead tons of sugar. Now these guys have been making wine for 20 years in this process and have not had any bad batches. Now I am going to ask them for this recipe but they keep telling me its all about the grapes. Is there anyone out there who knows how to make wine this way that can explain it to me and how it actually works?
Thanks in advance!
 

m_lapaglia

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What you are asking is the recipe for a memory. Time is a great healer the old gentlemen never had a bad batch, that they remembered. It is all about the grapes. This is how my mother explains what my Grand father did. She helped him for many years.

I remember the procedure of how my father made wine, but I couldn't possibly tell you the time element or how he would judge when the grapes were fermented enough to put into the press. That was something he alone did.

He would buy as much as a ton of grapes. I don't
know the type, but some years he'd use all black grapes (they looked like concord grapes) and sometimes he'd also use some white. I've never seen any of these in stores, probably because they were used mainly for wine making. They were tasty though, especially the white ones.

The grapes would be crushed in a cone shaped receptacle that was placed over a barrel. At the bottom of the receptacle were two grinding wheels that
looked like a mace. After the grapes were crushed,
the barrels would sit until the grapes fermented.
Then they were put into a huge press, which, of course, pressed our the juice. Then that was put into barrels. My father would hammer a spigot into the barrel as it laid on its side and periodically test
the contents. I don't know what the criteria was
for him to know when it was ready, but he did. He must have made very good wine because all his friends would wait to sample it. However, I never liked it as it was a very dry wine, but Aunt Mary sure did. He'd make maybe three or four barrels.
My reply to mom

Mom,
That’s what I needed to know. From what you say I know that he used natural yeast on the grapes to ferment the wine. He did his primary ferment with all the skins and pulp, he pressed after the first ferment. He could tell when it was done by the amount of bubbles that rose to the surface of the wine. When it got time to press the mixture it would slow down drastically in the amount of bubbles that rose. After the press he did his secondary fermentation in a closed system, the barrels. He was probably tasting it for sweetness. The fermentation process removes the sugar and converts it to alcohol so he it was done when it was dry enough for him.
I am betting that he reused the barrels over and over and never really sterilized them. This allowed the yeast strain to remain basically the same year after year. Which would lead to a consistent quality wine.

He used Mustang Grapes, Black Grapes, Dolcetto grapes, what ever he could get a ton of. He made good wine. Its not something you can do as a recipe. I doubt if he was alive today and had to start over with new equipment it would be as good as it was then.

It is all about the grape. Get them to show you how they do it. You will learn much more than you can from a paper recipe.
 

Wine Maker

Rocco
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Sure, you can make wine by pressing grapes and letting the natural yeast do its thing but you can run into several problems one of which is that the yeast isn't strong enough to finish the job thereby leading to a stuck fermentation whereby you end up with a very sweet wine, especially if you add sugar. If the grapes are at a sufficient brix or specific gravity there is no need to add sugar unless you are looking to boost the alcohol level. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get a consistent wine year after year by relying on the natural yeast. I would aslo assume that no sulfite was used to preserve the wine to prevent oxidation and bacteria from developing. Much more is known today about winemaking with the use of commerical yeasts, nutrients, and sulfutes.
 
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